FRISCO, Texas – After pandemonium ensued in the final 10 minutes of regulation, when three goals were scored to force 30 minutes of extra time, it took penalty kicks for FC Dallas to advance past the Seattle Sounders. The series finished 3-3 on aggregate after a 2-1 final score on Sunday night.
It was a quiet first 84 minutes with FC Dallas controlling most of the run of play but unable to break down the Sounders backline.
FC Dallas began emptying its bench, inserting Tesho Akindele, Walker Zimmerman and Blas Perez in the second half, with the former two coming on in the 83rd and 84th minutes. They were able to break through with the fresh legs on the field.
Je-Vaughn Watson received a ball from Mauro Diaz in the 84th minute and worked it to the right end of the penalty box. Watson sent a cross in to a streaking Akindele, who made it past Tyrone Mears and powered a header past Stefan Frei to give Dallas the late 1-0 lead.
But in the 90th minute, when it looked as if Akindele’s heroics would advance Dallas to the Western Conference Championship, Chad Marshall was able to match Akindele’s feat, this time from a corner kick from Marco Pappa. Just like that, Seattle was celebrating what looked like their punched ticket to the next round.
Dallas, however, did not back down with only stoppage time left to salvage their season. After racing down the field, Perez was able to flick a ball up from the outer edge of the penalty box to the head of Zimmerman. The 22-year-old defender was able to get the header past Frei give Dallas a 2-1 lead.
Dallas had multiple chances in the extra time, particularly behind the fresh legs of Akindele and Michael Barrios' quickness, but nothing ever materialized for the hosts. The Sounders nearly earned a PK towards the end of the second set of 15 when Clint Dempsey was tackled in the box, but the referee swallowed his whistle and allowed play to continue.
Dempsey drilled the first PK for Seattle to the left of the net, past an incorrectly guessing Jesse Gonzalez. Diaz responded by doing the exact opposite – putting it to Frei’s left.
Andreas Ivanschitz put Seattle’s next penalty to the right, but Gonzalez read it correctly was able to dive just far enough to deny the attempt. Ryan Hollingshead gave Dallas the 2-1 PK advantage on the next attempt, softly lobbing the shot over the body of a diving Frei.
Down 2-1, Gonzalez saved a second straight attempt, this time from Chad Barrett. Again, Gonzalez guessed correctly in diving right to block the shot.
Akindele, Dallas’ hero in regulation, drilled his shot inot the back of the net while Seattle's Andy Rose slotted his safely into the bottom corner of the net.
Zimmerman drilled the fourth PK for Dallas to send them to the Western Conference Championship 4-2 in penalties.
Dallas’ season continues against either the Vancouver Whitecaps or Portland Timbers, while the Sounders’ season disappointingly comes to an end.
There is strength in numbers. Especially when you have a coach who’s committed to using everything and everyone at his disposal. That’s what Oscar Pareja has earned a rep for in his four years as an MLS head coach, and that’s what has his team into the Western Conference championship. Tesho Akindele was an ideal sub to take advantage of Tyrone Mears’s tired legs, while Walker Zimmerman was, is, and will remain an A+ target on set pieces.
Dallas have been noteworthy for their youth, and with that ethos has come an extra level of depth. So when extra time, and then penalties came, they weren’t winded and they weren’t weary.
They were just ready. The kids are alright.
– By Matt Doyle, Senior Editor